Waking from hibernation

Springtime magic at Leuchtenburg Castle

Temperatures are beginning to rise and nature is bursting out in bright green colours after days of sunshine interspersed with a few sharp showers. In the morning, I am woken by birdsong outside the window. I wonder what they’ve got to shout about? Perhaps they’re discussing what to do on this beautiful spring day. I for one already know: I’m off to Leuchtenburg Castle. I’ve heard it has cast off the last traces of winter and the hustle and bustle of the medieval Christmas market is now a distant memory. The castle has awoken from hibernation.

The castle’s gardener, Kerstin, is behind a lot of the springtime magic.  

During my visit, I repeatedly spot her watering flowers, clipping a little here and there and coming up with the most beautiful ideas for planting, apparently on the spur of the moment. I’ll definitely get some tips from her for my garden. Picture: ©Stiftung Leuchtenburg 

 

White gold in the courtyard

As I reach the castle, I cast my eyes around. The views across the Saaleland region really are stunning. The effort of getting up here has certainly already been worth it. After a short breather, I buy my ticket at the visitor centre. I’ll make sure to come back here before I leave to have a snoop around the gift shop. But for now I’m off to explore the castle.

I go through the arch, where the barrier opens automatically with my ticket. The castle courtyard is in full bloom. Wherever I look, I see flowers in a variety of colours, all arranged differently. Before walking on, I stop for a moment to fully appreciate it all. There’s so much detail here, someone has spent a great deal of time and effort on this. In the corner, there’s an old wooden chair with plants growing were the seat used to be. I really like that idea, so I take a photo to try it out at home.

What immediately catches the eye is that porcelain seems to be everywhere. Before I came, I read online that Leuchtenburg Castle combines the medieval period with the history of porcelain. The Porcelain Worlds exhibition has received rave reviews, in fact. A large wreath with pieces of porcelain stuck to it is my first indication that the ‘white gold’ plays quite an important role here. A few steps further along my suspicions are confirmed. A wall in the courtyard has been completely covered in porcelain pots. All manner of them, and they are all pretty; some have intricate decorations, others are quite plain. I have to smile to myself as I spot a few pots that my grandma has too. This is a really quirky idea.

A touch of Italy

At the centre of the courtyard is a gondola in front of a wooden bridge, a sight that brings Venice to mind. The bridge is festooned with more porcelain pots. As I sit down in the gondola to take a selfie, I spot a woman busy watering and clipping flowers. So I decide to speak to her. It turns out that she’s the castle’s gardener. She tells me that the Frühlingszauber, or springtime magic event, at Leuchtenburg Castle is different every year. One year it looks like Venice, the next there are mountains of porcelain pots. She also uses her creative ideas to transform the castle at other times of the year. Her infectious enthusiasm makes me want to come and explore the castle’s ever-popular Christmas market, so I immediately make a note in my diary to visit those medieval festivities. Right, time to move on …

We all wish for different things: 

some of us keep it traditional and wish for good health, others might be a little more offbeat and wish for a parachute jump. Here, it doesn’t matter whether you’re down to earth or eccentric, as the unspoken – or should I say written down – wishes remain a secret. Picture: ©Ulrich B.-Rothe, Stiftung Leuchtenburg 

Magnificent views

I circle the keep and stop off in the porcelain church. It’s quiet here, so I take a moment to sit on one of the modern wooden benches. I try to imagine what the sound must be like in this space when they have a concert. I get goosebumps just thinking of it.

Next, I pass through the heart of the castle and climb up the keep. My muscles are certain to ache tomorrow, but the view makes up for all those steps. There are some information boards here that tell me which towns I can see in the distance. Looking out, you can’t help but be amazed by how big the world is. And how beautiful. Especially now, when the castle and the surrounding countryside are just awakening from hibernation. After a brief pause to take it all in, I make my way back down, where another highlight is waiting for me.

Smashing porcelain for good luck

I originally came here to check out the springtime magic event, but it would be a shame to miss the Porcelain Worlds exhibition. Approaching the building, I can see that it tells a quite different story. As I step through the glass door, I leave the medieval charm of the castle behind and immediately find myself transported to the present day. To the left is a moss-covered wall, and to the right is a wall of wishes. Health, a colourful doll’s house, melon-flavoured tea – plenty of things that I might wish for myself. We should indulge our inner child from time to time, don’t you think? I’ll find out what the wall is all about later on, but for now I head into the exhibition. From the outside I would never have known what to expect. I simply can’t believe my eyes as I walk through. Light effects transport me to the other end of the world, and shadow plays tell me fascinating stories. There are colossal porcelain exhibits next to tiny ones, and there are moving portraits like in a Harry Potter movie.

As I return to the wall of wishes, I’m bursting with curiosity. I enter a dark room just around the corner and am immediately struck by an almost mystical air. My hair stands on end. In the centre, a spotlight shines on a container full of porcelain plates. I grab one and approach a UV-lit booth, where I use a ‘magic pen’ to write my greatest wish on the plate. But I’m not allowed to say what it is, otherwise it won’t come true. Once I leave the booth, the writing on the plate disappears. Next, I head outside onto the skywalk of wishes, which extends beyond the castle walls. I’m a bit of an adrenalin junkie, so I run straight to the glass barrier at the end. But even I have to gulp as I look down. There’s nothing for it: I shut my eyes tight, concentrate on my wish, open my eyes and fling the plate off the skywalk. It breaks into a zillion pieces as it hits the ground below … I sure hope a little shard of luck comes my way. 

I wonder how many of the wishes made here have come true.

Back in the visitor centre, I take my time browsing around the gift shop. A castle card game for my nephew, a small book on Thuringian porcelain for my mother and a bottle of Leuchtenburg Castle wine for my husband and me soon fill up my rucksack. I leave the castle in high spirits and with lots of new ideas on this lovely spring day. And one thing’s for certain: I’ll be back soon.

Of wishes and wonders
Your heart will skip a beat, you won’t believe your eyes and you’ll have a permanent smile on your face. A visit to Leuchtenburg Castle truly is an unforgettable experience. The way in which it brings together such disparate things as the medieval period and the history of porcelain is truly extraordinary.

 


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